Chubby set to charge from 2nd on the grid


Provisional polesitter Alex Barros (Honda) dominated the second and final British MotoGP qualifier, held July 13, up until the final five minutes of the session when Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) produced a 1’31.651 to slip the YZR-M1 into pole position. The Spaniard’s performance was welcomed by Tetsuya Harada (Honda), who followed Checa around to end the day with a personal best lap, a 1’31.906 – relegating Barros (1’31.828) one place further in arrears. Then, with only seconds remaining, Friday non-qualifier Valentino Rossi (Honda) overcame the hindrance of a fractured left thumb to snatch pole position for tomorrow’s British MotoGP by a mere 0.088 seconds – the 1’31.563 logged as a new circuit best lap.

Checa’s Marlboro Yamaha teammate, Max Biaggi (1’32.197), heads the second row after recovering from a mid session bucking bronco ride, which saw the Italian on the tar and his bike continue, upright, into the infield. His qualifying result was almost matched by John Hopkins (Red Bull Yamaha WCM, 1’31.977), who was on the front row leading up until the final few minutes, and eventually ended up only 0.071 seconds slower than the veteran. In fact the times are so close that only 2.340 seconds covers the entire grid, with the top 13 within a second of the pole time.

Meanwhile, the casualty list increased today with Tohru Ukawa (Honda) and Pere Riba (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) absent from the afternoon session. The former was still struggling with the effects of his massive Friday opening practice crash, while it is believed Riba has broken his left tibia and fibula after highsiding the YZR500 in today’s morning practice.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 2nd, 1’31.651:
“That was good, but it’s tomorrow’s result that really counts. We always knew this year would be a big fight to improve both the machine and myself, so we’ve stayed focused and things have got better and better. Yesterday, as is usual this season, we had a lot to test. I like the direction we’ve taken with the new crankshafts, this is something we discussed at Jerez. So today I was confident enough to start pushing and go quicker, then to use a softer rear for my fastest run. It’s a pity to miss pole by so little but my aim was the front row, so I’m happy. All weekend we’ve been focusing on getting the bike good for race distance and I’m quite confident for the race.”

Max Biaggi 5th, 1’31.906: “That was another fall that I didn’t need. And it was a strange crash, inexplicable. I was running a soft rear, which I know well, and the bike was almost upright but it was jumping a little and then it flicked me. Apart from the falls, I’ve been up with the fastest guys all weekend, and as soon as I got going again I was doing low 32s, even in traffic. Also, we’ve made a big step forward with the settings since yesterday. We’ll see what I can do in the race, though the second row means I’ll need a good start. We tried some new stuff here, but I want to test it more before I race with it.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 6th, 1’31.977:
“It’s not exactly the position on the grid that I was hoping for. The front row would have been more to my liking, but I was able to get into the 31s, which is the target that I had set for myself. I think I’m only something like four tenths of a second off Rossi’s time, so I’m happy with that considering I haven’t ridden here before this weekend.

“I’m still making some mistakes, but I have managed to achieve most of the things I wanted with the set-up. I’d like to push the top five tomorrow, and with the Dunlop tyres we’ve got for the race, I’m confident that I can do it.”

Garry McCoy 18th, 1’33.153: “I’m a little bit disappointed, I thought I would have been closer than I am, but maybe I’m expecting a little too much for my first race back after such a long break. I guess the positive thing is I did my best time on my race tyre.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 12th, 1’32.446:
“I’m still having the same problem as yesterday, it’s like there’s no feeling for what the bike is doing, front or rear, so I’m lacking the confidence to push it. It doesn’t want to turn like I want it to, especially in the second section of the circuit, and I’m losing momentum off the turns. We spent most of qualifying trying to solve this, to find a race set-up, and hopefully what we have will be good enough to keep me in with the leaders, if I can get into that pack to begin with.”

Shinya Nakano 15th, 1’32.810: “There’s not too much of a problem with the bike, so I can’t really blame my position on that. It was just difficult for me to improve on my Friday time, I’m not sure why. About my only concern is with some front-end chatter on my second bike, so we’ll try these settings on the number one bike in the morning warm-up and see if that solves it.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 13th, 1’32.586:
“It’s the same as usual… maybe I should see if we can make qualifying a game of chance, say pulling the grid position out of a hat, that way I’d probably have a little more luck. Even so I am looking forward to the race, because looking at these times it will be very close and competitive. I’m not sure why, but I’m feeling quite confident about this race… maybe it’s because I’ve had some good results here, and I like the track layout.”

Pere Riba 20th, 1’34.009: Will not start the race.